The Art of Stealing Souls

Scrawled on the back of a grimy polaroid with a cigarette burn in the lower left corner, melting and twisting the plastic of John's left hand:

John and Gemma Teller
Las Vegas, Nevada

They get a drunk tourist to take a polaroid of them on the strip some time between midnight and dawn; it's hard to tell after a bottle of tequila and a night at the slots. Gemma loves the club, the club's her family, but John's her husband and she likes her conjugal time. She especially likes her conjugal time when it involves a lot of hundred dollar bills won fair and square at the poker tables and tucked safely in her bra.

"Now come to bed," says John, tugging at her hand. She stumbles over the curb and stops a moment to yank off her high heels, walk barefoot on the sidewalk. "What's the point of getting a room if we're not going to use it?"

"What makes you think we're not going to use it?" she says, walking backwards and tugging him in closer, face to face. "You think your old lady's not going to put out tonight?"

"I think I'm going to show my old lady a night to remember, that's what I think."

SAMCRO had business in Vegas, but tonight their room is sacred. No one's going to be stumbling in drunk to crash on their shag carpet. Nobody's going to be puking in their bathroom when they wake up. No gunfire is going to spoil this one night.

There's plenty of time for that tomorrow.

Typed neatly under a photograph taped to page two of a medical file in long-term storage at St. Thomas Hospital:

Thomas Michael Teller
Mother: Gemma Teller
Father: John Teller

Gemma holds her child, too quiet, too gray, and something tells her that it's for the last time. A mother knows. John has Jax at the house, but she doesn't call them to come. They don't need to see this. Jax played peek-a-boo with his little brother that afternoon and John had said his goodbyes a long time ago. She holds him and she rocks him and she sings softly to him like nobody's listening, and whenever anybody looks she pretends she's not crying.

Tellers are hardy stock, but some things just can't be fixed.

In black ink on the back of a snapshot, heavy enough to bleed through but nearly invisible in the dark sky:

Gemma and Jax on the Fourth of July, 1986

Clay takes the picture because John and Piney are off on business somewhere. Somewhere, that's what she tells anyone who asks, but Gemma knows exactly where they are, and exactly what the business is. And there's nobody in this world who'd ever be able to get her to tell.

It's after dusk and Jax is clutching a sparkler in his fist. Fireworks are going off in the background but her boy doesn't even flinch; eight years old and already he knows enough not to flinch at loud noises, already he knows enough to be aware of everything that's going on. She couldn't be more proud of him if he rebuilt a Harley right in front of her.

Jax takes after his father. He takes after the club. And at eight years old he already looks out for this town; he got suspended from school for his trouble but Gemma Teller's boy knows bad news when he sees it, and she made sure he got chocolate cake to go with his day off from school.

Piney hands the camera back and Gemma tucks it into her purse, waves him off towards the other guys and sits back down on the blanket. She looks around the picnic and she's not missing a thing.

On a dusty polaroid forgotten in a drawer at Teller-Morrow:

Luann and Gemma '89

Luann throws an arm around Gemma's shoulders and smiles for the camera; she knows all about cameras. Gemma lets her and doesn't hold back. Of any of the women, Luann's the one she trusts most. Luann's the one she trusts to have her back. And one of these days, she thinks she's going to need that.

On the back of a photo booth strip, three pictures intact and the fourth torn away, leaving only a triangle of gray at the corner:


Gemma is smiling in all of them. So is Clay.

On the back of a black and white photograph, carefully trimmed and framed and then stuck in a drawer, never to be looked at again:

Gemma and Jax Teller
Charming, California, 1993
We will never forget.

The day of John's funeral is hot and dry, both hotter and dryer than it ought to be, but Gemma's still in widow's black. Today is the day she buries her husband. Today is the day her son became a man right in front of her eyes. A week ago he was a teenager, and today he stands with the club, as much one of them as John ever was. He has a lot to learn, but he's in good hands, that boy of hers.

She didn't expect it to ache this much, like of piece of her's been ripped out and there's no way to put it right. But she's got the club and she's got Jax and there are ways to fill it again. Gemma knows a little something about scars, and she knows that this is going to leave one. But she's lived with her scars before and she's sure there'll be more before the end of her days. That's just the way the business works.

Printed on the back of an eight by ten photograph, for posterity:

Clay Morrow and Gemma Teller-Morrow

Clay doesn't pose for pictures, doesn't much like having his photograph taken at all, but their living room doesn't look right without the normal accouterments, the furniture, the knick-knacks, the family photographs on the wall. And what Gemma wants, Gemma gets. They get a friend to take it so they can get the negatives afterwards, and Gemma calls it their honeymoon photo even though it's a few years too late for that.

She takes it down sometimes when he's not home, holds it in her hands and runs her fingertips over the glass. She's glad she convinced him to have it done, but she doesn't want anyone to call her sentimental. Family, after all, is everything.

Carefully labeled on a photo in the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

Gemma Teller Morrow
Affiliation: Sons of Anarchy, Charming, California
Photograph accurate as of July 17, 2006

Gemma leans against the outside wall of the garage and lights a cigarette, one arm resting over her abdomen and one foot pressed flat against the wall. The boys have got a backlog of work, and not all of it's for the shop. Gemma knows what's on their plate, has it all prioritized in her mind and is already ready to talk it through with Clay when he gets home that night.

Everything's going according to the plan.

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[ by CJ Marlowe ]   [ home ]   [ disclaimer ]

Written for Yuletide 2008.